There are a lot of assumptions made by travelers when it comes to vaccinations and in this case Yellow Fever Vaccine. To most travelers, vaccination certificates are just some of the documents they need to show immigration officers and not actual vaccines to be taken for prevention of serious diseases.
Some even pay ‘something’ small’ to have the vaccination certificate without caring about the risks in the event that they contract or spread a vaccinable disease.
There are two reasons why the vaccine is given:
To prevent the international spread of the disease by protecting countries from the risk of importing or spreading the yellow fever virus.
To protect individual travelers who may be exposed to the Yellow Fever Virus.
I write about yellow fever because it is one of the most common vaccinations needed by African travelers and partly because I have found myself in sticky situations before where I can’t provide evidence for vaccination when indeed I have been vaccinated.
How? you ask.
My first certificate was rejected at the Namanga border seven years ago by a clinical officer because it did not have a stamp. The guy insisted that I get another injection because he doubted the credibility of my certificate. He thought it was bought. Well, I refused to get another injection because at that time I was so scared that getting a vaccination in less than two months would kill me. That was a myth.
The truth is unless you are immunocompromised having a second dose is vaccine is not dangerous. If anything, the memory cells that were triggered by the first vaccination will remember the second vaccination as infection and use the body’s immune system to clear it out.
So how did I manage to convince the guy? I still had a mild scar to show… and some sincerity in my voice. lol. So he ended up giving me a certificate on condition that I will need to produce the other on my way back. I still paid for the full amount.
The other instance was during my trip to Botswana recently, I forgot my certificate in the house and the Port Health lady insisted that I run home and bring proof or ask someone to send a photo with all the deets or just get another jab. Well, this time it was a bit easy because I had someone send me photos of the certificate. However, I still paid the full amount, only that I wasn’t injected.
So what is a vaccine?
It is an antigenic substance( A molecule that is capable of binding to an antibody or to an antigen receptor on a T cell, especially one that induces an immune response) prepared from the causative agent( in this case a weakened form of Yellow fever Virus that can not induce an infection) of a disease or a synthetic substitute substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity.
What is Yellow Fever
Yellow fever is not exactly a household name, but it comes up quite a lot among travel circles. But what exactly is Yellow Fever?
Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Yellow fever virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of infected Aedes or Haemagogus species mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes acquire the virus by feeding on infected primates (human or non-human) and then can transmit the virus to other primates (human or non-human). People infected with yellow fever virus are infectious to mosquitoes (referred to as being “viremic”) shortly before the onset of fever and up to 5 days after onset. The virus is introduced into the bloodstream through the saliva of the mosquito as it bites. When in the body it can reproduce itself in a variety of the body’s cells—usually the liver, kidneys, and blood vessels. (Source CDC)
It is characterized by fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. These signs are commonly mistaken for diseases such as Malaria as they are mostly mild on the onset. The most prominent sign is the “yellowing in patients ” from which the name is derived.
The virus is endemic in the Tropics especially in parts of Africa, Central, and South America. Forty-seven countries in Africa and Central and South America are risk areas for yellow fever.
Why do you need a Yellow Fever Vaccination While Travelling?
You must wonder why most countries need a Yellow fever vaccination for travelers. The Virus is highly fatal with patients who contract the virus developing severe symptoms and approximately half of those die within 7 to 10 days. Most countries with zones within risk areas will require any traveler from the age of 1 to be vaccinated.
It is advised to get vaccinated 10 days before traveling to allow the Vaccine enough time to be effective.
Countries that you are likely to contract Yellow Fever in South America
Argentina, French, Guiana, Bolivia, Guyana. Trinidad and Tobago (Trinidad only) Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia Paraguay, Ecuador, and Peru
Yellow fever is prevented by an effective vaccine, which is safe and affordable. A single dose of yellow fever vaccine is sufficient to offer sustained immunity and life-long protection against yellow fever disease. The vaccine provides effective immunity within 10 to 30 days for people vaccinated.
There are many myths surrounding the Yellow Fever disease:
Yellow Fever Vaccine is Fatal
- There are several conspiracy theories that the Yellow fever vaccine is a plot to depopulate the world. However, The vaccine is tried and tested and only works to protect against the virus. I has also been around for about 80 years now.
You can only get infected during the Rainy Season
- While Yellow fever is most rampant during the rainy season, it is possible to get infected during the dry season. It is important to get vaccinated whenever you are traveling to a risk area.
You need a vaccine every time you are traveling
- A single dose of the vaccine offers lifelong protection and sustained immunity against yellow fever disease. Travelers no longer need to have a booster vaccine.
As of 11 July 2016, the World Health Organization declared that new and existing Yellow Fever vaccination certificates are valid for life starting 10 days after vaccination.
When do you need another Yellow Fever Vaccine?
You might require a booster vaccine against yellow fever if advised by a medical practitioner in the following circumstances:
- Your immune system was compromised when you were vaccinated. For example, you were pregnant, ill or taking medication that suppressed your immune system.
- If you work in a lab with the Yellow Fever virus.
- You received a fractional dose of the vaccine (meaning you did not receive the full dose due to a vaccine shortage).
- You frequently travel to areas with high Yellow Fever risk
- When travelling to an active Yellow Fever outbreak area and have not been vaccinated in the previous 10 years.
Did you find this article useful? What is your yellow Fever vaccination story?